GUILFORD, Maine — Rusty Ward thought he was out of business when he came to work Wednesday morning.
The owner of RNK Garage on Water Street saw immediately that a door had been forced and his Verus computer system, a type of handheld tool made by Snap-on Diagnostics critical to most mechanics’ abilities to diagnose problems with today’s computer-driven vehicles, was among several items that had been stolen.
“I wanted to go home and quit,” the 41-year-old mechanic said Thursday. “I worked three years building a business. To have somebody come in and steal something that important, to see all that [hard work building a business] go out the window, it was not even anger, just disappointment that I was feeling. It was not fun.”
“I had no question I would never see it again,” Ward said of the $13,000 item. “That kind of diagnostic equipment is easy to trade. It usually leaves the country. Snap-on said that most of the time the stuff ends up in Canada.”
Ward remains in business today thanks to a police officer’s shrewd deduction and a neighbor’s alertness, Lincoln police and Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department deputies said.
Lincoln police Officer David Cram found what later was determined to be Ward’s Verus system in a red Dodge pickup truck he pulled over on Main Street near the Lincoln Public Safety Building about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, Lincoln Police Chief William Lawrence said.
Cram was responding to the neighbor’s report of a loud pounding noise in the area of Main Street Redemption Center, 336 Main St., when he saw the pickup and pulled it over. A check revealed that the driver of the pickup truck was registered to an owner with a suspended license, Lawrence said.
Cram approached the driver and saw the diagnostic tool inside the pickup truck and several other items, including a crowbar, that he took to be burglar tools. He also saw a Verus with a serial number later found to match that of the machine taken from RNK Garage, Lawrence said.
The driver, Shawn Boutot, 26, of Hermon, was charged Wednesday with operating after suspension and possession of burglar tools and released after posting bail.
Lawrence and Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Guy Dow said that Boutot and another man in the vehicle are suspects in three auto-shop burglaries that occurred overnight Tuesday in Guilford and Dover-Foxcroft.
Boutot has not been charged with the three burglaries. He remained free on bail late Thursday.
Dow and Ward said that Cram’s instincts allowed them to participate in a happy sort of ritual police and burglary victims seldom have a chance to enjoy: the return of missing and much-needed items.
“They had everything back to me by 6:30 that night,” Ward said. “Dow called and said, ‘They found your equipment. I just need the serial number off it to verify it.’ He said, ‘I have the piece of equipment right here in my hands.’ ”
Dow confirmed with Snap-on the serial number on Ward’s machine, Dow said.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Ward said. “I said, ‘No way they got everything. Something has to be missing.’ He said, ‘I have everything here and I’ll be leaving from Lincoln with it in a few minutes.’ ”
A measure of the excellence of Cram’s instincts, Dow said, is that he seized the stolen goods at least three hours before the burglaries were reported.
“It felt pretty good,” Dow said. “Generally stuff like that doesn’t get recovered until years down the road when you hear something. That machine is so expensive. Because of that, he has the documentation that goes with it. It really turned out well.”
Ward since has improved his insurance, which initially would not have covered the loss, and his business’s theft prevention system, he said.
“I would still be here but I would have had to get a loan to replace it. It would have made it a lot more difficult and it would have made closing a lot more appealing,” Ward said.